West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis admitted yesterday that striker Saido Berahino had spent the past few days “in the naughty chair” for his comments about wanting to leave the club in the summer.
Berahino, Albion’s 14-goal leading scorer this season, is understood to have angered the club’s senior players for saying in a Sky Sports interview that he expected to go on to “bigger things” at the season’s end.
It adds to the 21-year-old’s growing list of misdemeanours – including turning up late for matchdays more than once this season and a driving ban last month for drink-driving – which explains Albion’s reluctance to restart negotiations over a new contract and increases the likelihood of him being sold in the summer.
“He’s been in the naughty chair but he’s OK,” said Pulis, adding: “I’ve spoken to him and I’ve spoken to his people. The most important thing Saido has got to do is not talk about what he wants to do but actually go out there and do it.”
Pulis, who confirmed Albion had received “no phone calls” in the transfer window for a player reportedly coveted by Liverpool and Tottenham, went on to rue the absence of discipline and good advice in the lives of many young footballers. In the case of the Burundi-born Berahino, who lost his father in the civil war in that country, questions were raised about the homegrown forward’s attitude even last season when he had a dressing-room bust-up with midfielder James Morrison.
Pulis said: “The mentors that some of these lads need at an early age are just not there. It’s a shame and it’s a detriment to us as a country and I certainly think there is a massive void in the academies. A lot of kids coming through or going into academies are coming from broken homes and they need guidance. They need mentors and people who will push them in the right direction and show them what’s right or wrong, especially from a younger age.”
Berahino’s unwise words were not the only headache for Pulis this week. He failed to sign the extra striker and left-back he wanted in the transfer window, but has at least added to his squad the positive influence of Darren Fletcher, the former Manchester United midfielder. “As a character he is first class,” Pulis said of a player he had previously tried to sign for Crystal Palace.
Fletcher himself revealed yesterday that he had sought advice from his old United boss Sir Alex Ferguson about his choice of club after deciding to quit Old Trafford. “When I was making my decision, I bounced a few things off him,” said the Scot, who will make his Albion debut at Burnley tomorrow. “When someone has been such an influence on you and has given you great advice on and off the pitch all through your career you have to use these people. We had a fantastic chat and I know he has great relationship with Tony Pulis, as he has with lots of managers. He didn’t necessarily recommend [Albion] but we spoke about the pros and cons of different clubs and he couldn’t speak highly enough of Albion.”
As for his new manager, Fletcher has been impressed by Pulis’s straightforward approach . “There are no grey areas, it is black and white. You know what is expected of you in every situation.”
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